Updated 08/14/12 – 8:57 p.m.
LOMBARD, Ill. (CBS) — Bill Mueller, the longtime village president in west suburban Lombard, is now battling both cancer and the West Nile virus.
Mueller, who has been village president for 19 years, was already weakened by his battle against the blood cancer known as multiple myeloma, which lowers the red cell count and leaves those who contract it vulnerable to infections. When his fever spiked on Aug. 5, he was admitted to Elmhurst Memorial Hospital and quickly moved to its intensive care unit, where he remains.
The 76-year-old Mueller is the second DuPage County resident to be hospitalized with complications from the West Nile virus this year.
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DuPage County Health Department spokesman David Hass said the first was a woman in her 50s from Downers Grove, whose diagnosis was confirmed by the Illinois Department of Public Health laboratory Tuesday. He did not have details on her condition.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov talked to the husband of another seriously ill victim of West Nile.
Three weeks ago, 65-year-old Nancy Lundquist and her friends gathered for dinner in the back yard of her Lincoln Square home.
“She remembers getting bit, and her girlfriends remember swatting, and everybody was surprised because we’ve had very few mosquitos,” her husband Roy Lundquist said.
Three days later, she thought she was coming down with the flu. Days later, she was in the intensive care unit, struggling to breathe on her own, and unable to move much of her body.
“Things moved very quickly when we got to the hospital. She was going downhill very quickly,” Roy said. “It was very scary.”
It took doctors about a week to determine Lundquist had contracted West Nile Meningitis, a very severe case of the West Nile Virus.
Roy said she was healthy before coming down with West Nile.
“Perfectly healthy. No problems at all. She’s healthier than I am,” he said.
Dr. Thomas Bleck, a professor at Rush University Medical Center, said it’s unusual for anyone to get sick from being bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito, much less develop such severe symptoms.
“Only one person bitten in a thousand who is bitten actually gets sick,” he said. Those with weakened immune systems are more likely to become ill and develop more severe symptoms. Most patients who are infected don’t notice any symptoms.
Tbat is what makes Lundquist’s case so scary.
“They’re talking about weeks, maybe months … at least two more months in the hospital, and it could be six months to a year before she gets back to whatever normal is going to be for her now,” Roy said.
Doctors said the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are usually the most at risk.
Mueller was already battling cancer when officials confirmed he has West Nile Virus, too. Village employees said they are hoping for the best.
State officials said, as of Wednesday, only six human cases of West Nile had been confirmed in Illinois. Lundquist believes there are probably more. He’s learned that information travels slowly.
“You take it for granted. It’s like it’s not going to happen to you, but overnight, the world changes,” Roy said.
Lombard village spokesperson Carol Bauer said family members expect to meet with doctors Wednesday morning to determine their next move in Mueller’s case. Bauer said everyone at Village Hall is hoping for good news.
Flowers are not allowed in the Elmhurst ICU, but Bauer said that Village Hall has a stack of get-well cards from concerned residents, including a huge card signed by dozens of children in the local YMCA summer camp. The cards are being forwarded to Mueller’s family.
It takes about 3 to 14 days for symptoms of West Nile Virus to develop. When going outdoors, people should use insect repellant, especially around dawn and dusk when West Nile mosquitos are most active. Officials also advise wearing long sleeves and pants to avoid mosquito bites.
If you see a dead bird, don’t touch it, call your local health department.